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Development Disabilities Awareness Day celebrates 26 years as largest conference of its kind in U.S.

by jmaloni

Submitted

Mon, May 19th 2014 11:50 pm

The 26th annual Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day will be held at The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls. 

DD Day brings together people with developmental disabilities and their families, experts from provider agencies and local officials who will convene to explore the latest issues in the field. Professionals from various area agencies who specialize in services for people with developmental disabilities and similar health-related industries will be on hand to provide guidance, literature and general information about services the organizations provide.

DD Day has long been a staple of the Western New York developmentally disabled community, bringing together local and regional agencies, industry-connected vendors and suppliers, direct support professionals and the individuals that all of these groups support. The conference is the largest one of its kind in the U.S., and has been growing bigger and more sophisticated with every year.

This year's conference features 20 one-hour workshops, keynote speakers, an awards luncheon, fair, entertainment and reception. The new www.ddday.org website will serve as a one-stop location for registration and information. Tickets are available at three levels, with more than 200 free scholarship tickets available for people who qualify. Luncheon ($20) and workshop-only tickets ($12) are also available.

Keynote speakers include

Sarah Field Sonnenberg, a SUNY Buffalo State graduate in art and social work, who holds certifications in art education and psychiatric rehabilitation counseling and has been working in human services since 2004 (currently as an art facilitator for Aspire of WNY's iXpress Arts Program.

Alexander Glenfield, who studied music, art and philosophy at the University of Toronto and at York University, where he completed a Ph.D. in the field of medical ethnomusicology at York University. Since the year 2000, Glenfield has facilitated creative arts programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities and complex care needs.

Lisa Brown, a mixed-media artist residing in Buffalo, is a graduate of Buffalo State College in art education and has worked with various communities through Artpark, The Buffalo and Erie County Libraries and Sugar City Arts Collaborative.

Each year, several awards are presented at the conference's luncheon, including awards for personal achievement, direct service provider of the year, community service of the year and caregiver of the year. These awards are presented to professionals, organizations and individuals with developmental disabilities.

The 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Jim Casion, former CEO of Baker Victory Services, and Regent Robert M. Bennett, chancellor emeritus.

For more than four decades Casion has found ways to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He pioneered the Baker Victory Dental Clinic and was instrumental in creating a number of organizations that help a variety of this community's most vulnerable people, including the Erie County Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, the Family Justice Center and the Trauma Informed Community Initiative.

Bennett is known for his support of individuals with developmental disabilities and outstanding leadership, which spans several decades. Bennett is a three-term chancellor and four-term Regent for the Eighth Judicial District at a Joint Session of New York State Legislature. He served as president and CEO of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and was instrumental in improving the Individual Education Program Diploma, developing The Career Development and Occupational Studies Career Development and Occupational Studies Commencement Credential and helping to restore funding to Parent Network of WNY.

Ashli Skura Dreher, who has been teaching for 18 years and currently teaches special education in the Lewiston-Porter Central School District, will emcee the awards luncheon. She is committed to developing partnerships with families, service providers and community business leaders in order to advocate for her students.

The new DD Day Cyber Café will feature different adapted devices and assistive technology demonstrations. The café will have information technology professionals there to help show the ways one can connect with friends, get information, locate and use apps on a computer and other devices. The Cyber Café will also host a transportation survey.

DD Day is designed to be fun for the whole family, with attractions and festivities including an art gallery with work from local artists with disabilities, a performance area with various performers (music, poetry and dance), an agency and vendor fair, "Parent Corner" and concessions. The day will close with a reception that includes free pop and appetizers, a basket raffle and a cash bar featuring the hip sounds of Universal Mind.

The conference runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls, which is located at 101 Old Falls St. Tickets/registration, contacts, workshop descriptions and more information is available at www.ddday.org.

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